Saturday, 29 June 2013

Chateau de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon was the mistress and secret wife of King Louis XIV and the governess of his illegitimate children by Madame de Montespan. She was born Francoise d'Aubigne in 1635. She met Scarron, a rheumatic poet who was 22 years her senior. He died 8 years later leaving her in a desperate situation but she found support in the high society circles frequented by her late husband and it was here that she met Madame de Montespan who would change her life.

In 1669 the widow Scarron began working for madame de Montespan, the mistress of Louis XIV, living away from court and from prying eyes. In 1673 the children were legitimised and so she moved to court. Her love and care of his children moved the king to become close to her. He gave her generous financial support and with that she bought the chateau. She enjoyed living there but was becoming influential at court and found herself within the intimate circle of the king. After the death of the queen she married the king and followed him on all his travels. In 1698 she bequeathed her estate to her neice as she had no children of her own.
Photographs may not be taken of the interior of the chateau, unfortunately. It's a little run down in places but still shows a glimpse of what it must have been. My favourite room is the Gallery. This spectacular room, entirely decorated by Duke Paul de Noailles shows the history of the Noailles and Montmart families who were later owners of the estate.

Around the 13th century, we know that the chateau already existed. It was renovated during the time of Louis XII and in 1674 bought by Madame de Maintenon (Francoise d'Aubigne, widow Scarron). The main extension from 1686 onwards are linked to the building of the aquaduct and the king's visits to the chateau. After 1688 Madame no longer stayed there.

The interior was remodelled in the 19th century. In 1983 Monsieur and Madame Raindre, current owners and descendents of the Noailles family, bequeathed the estate to the Maintenon Foundation to ensure it's preservation. Income from tourism and the golf course funds it's preservation. In 2005 the Eure et Loir General Council took over the management of the chateau.
 Recently the gardens were completely redone more to the style of the gardener le Notre who was involved in redesigning them for Madame de Maintenon from 1676.

The chateau was severely damaged by Allied bombing raids in the second world war but was listed as an Historical Monument in 1944. It was restored and opened to the public. The restoration took 15 years and Monsieur Raindre refurnished the chateau with pieces from his own collections.

The ruins of Louis XIV's aquaduct are very much in evidence. Unlike Maintenon, Versailles had no water to feed the fountains and lakes or the 1400 waterfalls that the King wanted active day and night. Despite the famous machine of Marly water quantities soon proved insufficient. An alternative source was sought.

 In 1683 ,Louvois, Superintendent of Buildings, comissioned the surveyors of the Academy of Sciences to divert water from the River Eure to Versailles. It would be taken across the grounds of Maintenon by a siphon and through the air so a structure that would have superseded the Romans went under construction in 1685. It was ambitious and had to take water over 50 miles, composed of three levels of arches, reaching a height of 240 feet.

 It was never finished. Due to expensive wars the coffers were empty by 1695 and the project was abandoned. A monstrous folly.


Anonymous said...

Lovely memories visiting this place mum xxx

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